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Tim Bergsten created this Ning Network.

(Also found on http://neoendurance.blogspot.com)

Do you advise the people you coach to take a break from training or lighten their workout intensity during the late fall and winter months? Or, should endurance athletes plow through the year at full intensity? --Tim

Tim asks a really good question. I'll start my answer with the answer to many questions - it depends. But I clarify that here. If we assume a "typical" race season of the summer and early fall, then by the late fall you are done with races. We would then call the late fall and winter months the off season. Racing is done so what do you do now?

Regardless of the time of year your "off season" comes, you should take a few weeks to relax and recover. Your body has been through a lot during race season so it needs some rest to restore the damage. While you are recovering from your last race (this length of time will depend on the kind of racing you did) take a few weeks and just enjoy exercise. Do things that weren't a part of your training routine - hikes, skiing, bike rides just for fun with friends and family, or any other activity that is enjoyable to you. You want to stay active to retain fitness, but your body does need a break from a structured training season, and so does your mind. You should also use this time to reflect on your previous season and set goals for your next race season.

If you are like most endurance athletes, after a two or three weeks of little structure, you will feel refreshed and ready to get back in to an exercise routine. The length of this period will vary depending on your race season and goals. Use this time to work on technique or spend some extra time in the gym strethening your weak areas. This way when the training season starts up again for you, you will be ready!

Regarding intensity, I believe you should retain some intensity, but keep it short. You want your body to remember how to go fast, but you don't want to train so hard that when race season training comes around you are fatigued and unmotivated. Here's where a coach can come in handy to structure your race and off-season so that you get the recovery you need and work on the skills that need improving.

In summary:

  • Take a few weeks of unstructured activity after your last race of the season
  • Review your previous race season and set goals for the next season
  • Use the time between your recovery and your next race season to focus on strengthing any weaknesses based on your goals
  • Don't get rid of intensity completely, but don't burn yourself out before the real training starts.
Please leave comments or questions in the comment section about this topic. If you have other questions that you would like to see answered in the 'Ask the Coach' column you can post them there as well. You can also contact Coach Nicole on facebook, twitter or via email at nicole@neoendurancesports.com.


Coach Nicole is the founder and head coach for NEO Endurance Sports & Fitness, a Colorado-based endurance sport coaching company. She is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach and also coaches triathlon for Team In Training. Learn more at http://neoendurancesports.com/.

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Comment by Nicole Odell on September 21, 2010 at 4:43pm
Thanks Brian! Fall is definitely a great season in Colorado to keep up the fitness by having fun and enjoying the outdoors!
Comment by Brian McCarrie on September 16, 2010 at 1:25pm
Another great article Nicole. When the summer winds down for me, I naturally start running more trails. Just having fun. I love the smell of Fall. Then usually right after the New Year, I start to mix in some indoor bike training. This year though, I think I may hit the weights a bit too. Thanks and keep the great info coming.

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